SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University

Strengthening global democracy through powerful civic engagement and informed, inclusive dialogue

The SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University was founded in 2017 with a $150 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. We are a multi-disciplinary academic and public forum dedicated to strengthening global democracy by improving and expanding civic engagement and inclusive dialogue, and by supporting inquiry that leads to real-world change. By building integrated partnerships with scholars, practitioners, students, and the public, we use research to identify and sharpen strategic choices that members of the public and civic and political stakeholders around the world can make to realize the promise of democracy.

The institute draws its name and inspiration from the ancient Athenian agora. Originally designed as a marketplace, the agora grew to become the heart of democratic governance in Athens. It provided a structured forum for debate, disagreement, and deliberation, and a place where Athenians learned both the rights and responsibilities of democracy, and where they developed capacities for participation in public life.

Building on the unique strengths of Johns Hopkins—its world-class faculty, its interdisciplinary focus, and its dedication to bold experimentation—we seek to reinvigorate the ethos of the ancient agora for the 21st century. Our scholars study the behavioral, organizational, and institutional foundations of democracy; develop and test interventions to reverse trends toward decline; and share lessons learned to promote civic engagement and inclusive dialogue around the critical issues of our time.  Ultimately, we seek to recreate agora-like spaces that are critical to deliberative democracy.

Interested in learning more about SNF Agora? Read about the Institute’s Mission and Impact.